Turn your PC into two or more, instantly!
By Mario Cywinski | February 29, 2008
With the introduction of the technological age, the costs of starting and maintaining a small business have definitely increased. After a company is registered and the business plan is in place, it is time to create a true office atmosphere for the workers. For the majority of small businesses the main aspect of this process is the purchase of a set of computers and creation of a network for all employees.
Up until now this has meant spending thousands of dollars on computer hardware, network peripherals, and software. That is until a new program from Canadian software company Userful Corporation was introduced. While it may not eliminate all of a small business owner's worries, it does reduce one.
What is this program you ask? It is called Desktop Multiplier, and it can create up to 10 workstations from one computer. A word of caution, if saving money on computers is not your thing, there are many electronics and computer stores that would love to take your money. Seriously, however, the main focus of the software is to reduce cost and in these eco-friendly times, to reduce the amount of energy we are using.
While many may not have ever heard of this software, it has been used by schools, hotels and libraries all around the world, including South Africa.
If you are still a little sceptical about the software, here is a brief explanation of how it works. First you will need at least one computer, as the software does need somewhere to run on. Next you will need to determine what the computer will be used for, which in turn determines what you will need to buy.
"The minimum specifications for a 10 workstation set-up will be determined by what is going to be done on the workstations," said Sean Rousseau, marketing & PR for Userful. "If they are only going to be used for word processing and e-mail than a dual-core processor and a couple gigs of ram are plenty. If however, the workstations will be used for things like playing games and watching movies than we recommend a quad-core processor and four gigs of ram."
Next, what you will need is the software, a computer with at least a dual head video card (for every two workstations), and each of the following for every workstation you wish to create: monitor, mouse, and keyboards.
For many, performance of their workstation is of utmost importance, as today's world is extremely fast paced and never slowing. Being put on hold, waiting for a phone call are among the things we can not control, however, the speed of our computer is one thing we can have some input in.
What the software does to achieve a good speed is split the hardware resources of one computer and spread them out over many workstations. Each workstation looks and feels like a separate computer, but in reality it is just a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor.
"If each user needed their own operating system then there would be a very large performance hit as the number of users scaled up. The software's ability to share the same operating system minimizes the performance hit as the number of simultaneous users on the computer scale up," said Rousseau.
The one catch for users is the fact that you will still only have one CD/DVD drive, one sound card, and one printer (which can be configured as a network printer). As the software runs off of the Linux operation system, permissions for each of these devices are set-up through it.
For those who think I am speaking in a foreign tongue when I say the word, Linux, the Userful Live CD would be the best version of the software to get, as it does everything for you (including install Linux) on a computer that is running Microsoft Windows.
"There are two free downloads available: a Userful Live CD, which allows you to turn your PC into two independent workstations and gives you a taste of what Desktop Multiplier can do without affecting any of the software on your hard-disk, and a two-user copy of Desktop Multiplier for users already running Linux," said Rousseau.
Once the entire network of workstations is set up and ready to be used, the question of management comes into play. If you are like many, you want the most amount of control and least amount of set up. The software makes things easy; as it lets you manage and monitor the network remotely through its online management utility.
"This tool lets you centrally customize all your computers simultaneously including powerful features such as: time and print management, desktop security, remote imaging, internet filtering, virus and spyware protection, a full application suite in over 30 languages, and the look and feel," Rousseau said.
Anytime the program will need an update, whether it is for security purposes, those who have used Windows in the past will understand how important this can be, or simply to improve features and performance, the program does this on its own. Phone support is also available.
Unfortunately, while the two workstation version of the software is free to download for personal use, businesses will need to buy a license for each workstation they will need.
"The software that can turn one computer into more than two or for commercial use starts at $99 per seat and goes up as more features are added," said Rousseau.
If you want to dig a little deeper into this software, you can view the web site at: http://userful.com/. If you prefer to speak with a live person the e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number is 1-800-301-9018.